Joker Review -SPOILERS-



Joker actor Joaquin Phoenix at the 2013 New York Film Festival

David Rowe, Staff Writer

Director Todd Phillips took a very different approach to the backstory of Batman’s infamous nemesis in Joker. While Gotham is being torn apart by trash, violence, and wealth disparity, Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a menatally ill man pursuing a career in comedy slowly goes mad as he is neglected and bullied by society, becoming the evil villain known as the Joker. Although no actor will ever fill the shoes of Heath Ledger as the Joker, Joaquin Phoenix delivered an Oscar-worthy performance that makes the movie better than what it should’ve been.

Social issues are brought to light as the wealthy are blamed by the less fortunate for the extreme unemployment and filthy, disease-ridden streets in Joker. Phillips decided to use the 1980s city setting to make the film very dark and Taxi-Driver esque, with gruesome violence throughout the film. In the opening scene, Arthur is twirling a sign for  a store that is going out of business that reads, “EVERYTHING MUST GO!” The sign itself shows the nature of Gotham’s crippled economy right off the bat.

Next, a group of teenagers take the sign from Arthur and he begins chasing them to get it back. Arthur is ultimately lured into an alley and smacked with his sign. He is then beat up by the boys and left bleeding on the ground. This was a very powerful opening scene. Right away we see the abuse that Arthur is receiving from society and we see the awful conditions of Gotham, as well as the poor morale of its citizens. Viewers begin to empathize with the neglected man. The gloomy, dirty city setting matches perfectly with the dark, twisted development of Arthur into the Joker. Athur is abused physically and mentally, fired from his job, and neglected. This leads to viewers retaining a sense of empathy for the man as he spirals into madness and begins killing. Although it has a solid plot, the movie begins to feel dragged out after the scene of Arthur dancing down the stairs on his way to be on Murray Franklin’s talk show. He then runs into two police officers that are looking for him. This leads to a very anticlimactic chase in which Arthur coincidentally ends up on a train with hundreds of people in clown masks. The trailer made this scene seem much more exciting then it was.

The fact that Arthur didn’t become the Joker until the end of the movie made the story seem slow. One of the most powerful scenes was the final scene where Joker is broken out of the police car and lifted by the rioting rebels as the city burns in the background. This makes it obvious that the movie is coming to a close, and then the scene changes to Arthur talking to a therapist in what looks to be an institution. After a conversation similar to the one he had with the therapist previously in the movie, he walks out, leaving bloody footprints behind. The entire ending of the movie has been heavily debated over what actually happened. Some think that the entire third act of the movie was Arthur’s imagination, while others think that it all happened. Todd Phillips recently came out and said that he will eventually come out and tell people what he had in mind while writing and directing the film, but for now he is leaving it up to viewers to interpret for themselves.

Overall, Joker delivers an excellent performance by Joaquin Phoenix, but fails to present a very intriguing story. The combination of social justice issues and gruesome violence leave a lurking uncomfort for viewers. While a solid film, Joker does not live up to the original hype that it was given.